Dealing with the Winter Blues – Ways to Deal with Depression
The Winter Blues can be rough, specially for those of us who have dealt with or deal with depression.
The days are shorter, the sun for some reason loves to hide from us, and it rains a lot.
Depending on where you live, you can leave the door in the morning when it’s still dark out and get back home in the pitch black, feeling a bit like you’re in the twilight zone.
There’s nothing wrong with an occasional down spell. They’re perfectly normal. Every person goes through emotional cycles, so it’s important not to get too down on yourself if you catch a bit of the winter blues.
What you should be concerned about though, is when and if those winter blues linger for too long. They might start impacting your life more than you’d like them to, particularly if they start to influence how you feel about yourself.
The Limiting Effects of Depression
Depression is a serious condition that affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. At its worst, it can be debilitating. According to the Stanford School of Medicine, “At least 10% of people in the U.S. will experience major depressive disorder at some point in their lives. Twice as many women as men experience major depression.”
Now, we’re not saying that the winter blues equal a major depressive disorder, however it’s important to understand that they can. Feeling down and like you want to curl up on the couch all weekend once in a while is fine.
Be on the alert, though, if you start to feel like you can’t shake it!
When things get you down and you’re in a funk, there are things you can do to lift your spirits. It’s not easy, so start with small changes that can make a huge difference in how you feel. Here are some effective ways you can deal with the winter blues.
I hope by now you’ve had the chance to meet with a licensed therapist. If you haven’t, well, at least you’re here and perhaps considering it. You don’t need to be dealing with major trauma, divorce, or some other disruptive life event to get something out of therapy.
Therapists are trained to help you see patterns and work through life’s issues. Sometimes that involves dealing with some of the heavier stuff. Even for the small stuff, talking to a therapist is a fantastic way to identify what’s triggering the winter blues.
It may be your work schedule, the fact that you’re not getting enough sun, whether you’re exercising, or if you’re not spending sufficient time around friends and loved ones. Having a trained therapist sit and work with you on ways you can fight off the winter blues is time well spent.
How Diet Matters
In a new January 2020 article from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Monique Tello talks about how vital self-care is to helping depression.
Diet, she says, is often a neglected part of self-care. There is overwhelming evidence that a healthy diet helps prevent poor mental health.
Take a look at what you’ve been eating for the past week or so and think about whether your current bout with the winter blues can be traced back to your diet.
Sometimes, people have certain allergies to foods, and they eat them anyway.
Other times, people use eating disorder behaviors and go extreme when it comes to sugar reduction and / or binging and purging behaviors. Remember, we do not advise eating disordered behaviors under any conditions!
Keep It Moving
Exercise should be another major component of your self-care plan.
When you work out, you give your brain a much-needed break from the stress and worry that tends to fill up so much of our minds.
High-intensity interval training exercise can have a wonderful way of clearing out our heads because we’re so focused on the task at hand.
When you exercise, you’re also out of the house, and that increases the odds you’ll come in contact with other people!
Getting outside and in nature or a gym is great for clearing those winter blues!
You’re also more likely to feel positive about yourself when you’re in the habit of exercising.
You gain confidence in what your body can do and will feel generally stronger about yourself. That’s a wonderful boost to your confidence and mental health.
I put this title there on purpose. It’s mostly a joke because we all know how frustrating it can be when we tell a friend or a loved one that we’re feeling down. “Just be positive!”, they often say, and we roll our eyes thinking they just don’t get it.
It’s never super helpful when someone gives blanket general advice when you’re experiencing the winter blues. That’s even truer when it’s something specific that’s got you down. On the other hand, making a concerted effort to be positive will have an impact on your mood and mental health.
Hanging around positive people and taking a break from any Debbie Downers in your life can help cut the winter blues short. Engaging in positive activities also helps. If you can’t stand doing the laundry, take a break and go out for a fun night with a friend. Make a goal to compliment people at work each day for a job well done.
As you take concrete steps to be around and spread positivity, you’ll find it creeping into you as well. It will go a long way in lifting your mood so you can charge back into life on your terms.
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